Bill Withers was honored on Thursday night at Carnegie Hall with an all-star lineup recreating his 1972 album Live at Carnegie Hall. The show, a yearly event, was put on by City Winery CEO Michael Dorf as a benefit for the Stuttering Association for the Young.
Withers, who was inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, bucked the trends in the music business in the early 70's. At a time when R&B was funk or smooth vocal groups, Withers held strong to become a successful singer/songwriter with hits like Ain't No Sunshine, Use Me and Lean On Me. While his biggest success came with his first two albums, which contained all three hits, he occasionally re-surged back into the top ten into the 80's.
The original Carnegie Hall album was featured in the middle of the evening although a number of his later songs were performed both before and after. Jonathan Butler opened the evening with the 1977 hit Lovely Day while Aloe Blacc closed out the show prior to an encore with the 1981 song Just the Two of Us with Branford Marsalis taking over the Grover Washington, Jr. part.
Many of the artists took on two songs over the course of the night with Dr. John getting his second performance when he sat in for an ailing D'Angelo on Use Me, the first song in the Live at Carnegie Hall portion of the show.
While it was veteran artists that performed over much of the evening (Jonathan Butler, Michael McDonald, Valerie Simpson, Dr. John, Keb' Mo', Kathy Mattea) there was a healthy dose of newer singers including blistering heartfelt songs from Aloe Blacc and one of the world's biggest artists, Ed Sheeran, with Ain't No Sunshine (which he regularly plays in concert) and Lonely Town, Lonely Street.
Even though they tried, they couldn't get the reluctant Withers to sing. He came on stage during the encore and approached the mic but only thanked the crowd for coming out.
The set list:
- Lovely Day - Jonathan Butler
- Hello Like Before - Michael McDonald
- Who is He (And What is He to You) - Ledisi
- Let Me Be the One You Need - Valerie Simpson and Gregory Porter
- Use Me - Dr. John
- Friend of Mine - Greg Phillinganes
- Ain't No Sunshine - Ed Sheeran
- Grandma's Hands - Amos Lee
- World Keeps Going Around
- Let Me In Your Life - Jonathan Butler
- Better Off Dead - Anthony Hamilton
- For My Friend - Dr. John
- I Can't Write Left Handed - Keb' Mo'
- Lean on Me - Michael McDonald and choir from the Stuttering Association For the Young
- Lonely Town, Lonely Street - Ed Sheeran
- Hope She'll Be Happier - Aloe Blacc
- Let Us Love - Kori Withers and Kathy Mattea
- Harlem/Cold Baloney - Anthony Hamilton
- Just the Two of Us - Aloe Blacc with Branford Marsalis
- I Wish You Well - Keb' Mo with the rest of the cast